Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Darling I’m waiting to greet you

Photo by Jay Klassen

In the week leading up to Sun Mountain, I adhered to my taper regime, running only a couple of times. A surplus of sleep and a twinge-free body would have been welcomed but I’m convinced our minds play tricks before key events inventing ghost pains and ills, jeering us subconsciously “you don’t have to do this thing”.  

But I was so ready.

I can sleep late at night. Come to me baby

Earlier this week, someone pointed out how odd it was that my legs and hands were wound-free, since, he said “you seem to be running up a storm”. I replied “I changed my shoes and haven’t crashed or lost a toenail since”.

Is that not the best testimony ever? Thanks to members of the Salomon Flight Crew Jeff Pelletier, Tom Craik, Munny Munro, and Andy Reed, whom each advised me on shoes. And now I alternate between the sLabSense Ultra 3 and the Mantra is perfect for 50 miles! 

I’m also really grateful to The Murph … but that comes later.

Sun Mountain 50 mile. Start and Finish atmosphere - Photo by Jay Klassen

But I can’t wait to see you, So I run like I’m mad to heaven’s door

Sun Mountain is much praised for its prettiness. A scenic course, combined with Rainshadow event atmosphere gives the assurance of a fun-full day. With these distractions, I felt zero pressure at the 7am startline, and eased my way up to the lead women right from the gun. Since it was my first go on this course, I gathered info from those running near me. Meredith Cale said it was wise to gain ground early in the race, as there would be traffic in the singletrack once the 50K racers started at 10am. At which point we caught glimpse of Joshua Barringer moving well, and so Meredith decided best to ease-back the pace (she later dnf’ with hip flexor issues). Myself, felt comfortable and pressed on moving alongside a fellow who was aiming for an 8h30 finish (he did 7h53). I was aiming to complete under 9 hours, so continued to hustle regardless.

Dave Melanson of Project Talaria

Josh and Matt pinning-on their numbers just so

Mon amour, You’re divine

Since my feet never touch pavement, I found the continuous sections of gravel roads quite punishing. Watchful of how efficient my competitors were moving, I persevered on the ‘running’ sections by focussing on form and coaxing myself forward with thoughts of upcoming meadows. Then, I was startled by Matt Barry sauntering past me, flowers in his hair and arms out like a coasting hawk (he dnf’ mid-point, monitoring a tenacious foot injury). 

I forget the middle. I was in the zone, interspurted by postcard-like images flickering between aid stations and more sections of ‘road’. I recall the climbs were like heaven and the heat divine, it could have been hotter my love - bring on the hot steep race.

My new tactic was paying off. After reading Ed Kumar’s blogpost on a clinic led by Mike Murphy, I modified my approach to downhills. I’ve believed that saving my legs by playing descents conservatively would bring me success in ultras. This time my method was to giv’Er until there was nothing left, then push some more. I completely surrendered to gravity. And then … I saw Josh again.

Forgetting the middle - Photo by Jay Klassen
Jackie looking strong despite a really rough day - Photo by Jay Klassen
Matty enjoying the ride - Photo by Jay Klassen
Joshua rolling out those long legs - Photo by Jay Klassen

Don’t be afraid of me, Don’t be ashamed. Walk in the way of my soft resurrection

He was sitting in the shade of the final aid station, loosely holding a piece of mellon. My first thought was “oh no … poor Josh despising this heat”. My “??” expression or perhaps the simple shock of my arrival sparked Josh to his feet, and we left the aid station together (he finished quicker than last year despite stomach issues, though not the desired raceday). There was more carnage along the way. I ran past Bob Welbourn (elite cyclist doing his first 50K) and heard that Jackie Muir was having a terrible day. I spotted numerous Vancouver faces at the line (all dnfs) as I landed into James Varner’s finishers hug.

Finish line beer and pizza goodness

All day entertainment

Didn’t anyone ever tell you, It’s OK to shine

To my immense surprise, Gary Robbins came over to congratulate me on third place. I was skeptical of this news because I had counted three women in front of me and had ran scared the whole race, fighting to hold that position. I actually did finish in 4th place not 3rd, but nonetheless thrilled with the kind cudos' and with a well-earned finishing time of 8h12.

I recommend this race as an introductory ultra. The terrain is not technically difficult – if you are a solid climber and good road runner, this race is for you. The heat and open ground can be a challenge, though the frequent aid stations and cool breeze do counter this, plus there’s the darling views.

See Results. Instagram pics.

Next up: training continues ...

*Title quotes/Lyrics by Lana Del Rey

Monday, May 12, 2014

You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed

Saturday. 5Peaks Golden Ears

You might be wondering how my ‘double-double’ phase is coming along … and perhaps your interest was piqued in my last post when I mentioned ‘Marathon Mondays’. I’ve heard back from several people that the early-morning runs have proven addictive, though I cannot be further held responsible for any inspiration (or envy) derived from reading about Daniel Goddard’s ritual of running the marathon distance at the start of each work week.

One should never listen to the flowers. One should simply look at them and breathe their fragrance

I took Monday and Tuesday off work in order to better host visiting family from back East. This curiously provided windows of free time, and thus coaxed by amazing weather I did not adhere to my tapering plan. Within 4 days, I inexplicably mismanaged my mileage volume, and by Friday felt twinges of being over trained. I was registered to race the enduro distance at 5Peaks Golden Ears held this past Saturday, but decided it was best to sit that one out and stay injury-free for my upcoming key event at Sun Mountain.

Tuesday. Port Moody, Rocky Point Park.
Lunch time run. Ran 3x that day, unintentionally.
Wednesday. Flint + Feather with Aran Seaman (aka Thor)
Wednesday. I never tire of this view, my legs were
not as thrilled though coming down Skyline and Jetboy ...

It is truly useful since it is beautiful

At the race, I hung-out in the Salomon Running tent with Tom Craik, James Marshall, Munny Munro and Jeff Pelletier, where I talked with racers excited to demo awesome shoes. Last minute, I was asked by the race director (RD) to act as ‘race rabbit’ and lead out the kids 3K race - which was hilarious and frightening as they can really sprint. We can likely anticipate full race reports from Mike Murphy, Shannon Penway, Ed Kumar, and from the RD Solana Klassen. See race results.

Saturday. Waving to the mini-trail runners about to chase me for 3k.
Joel and Shannon ambassadors for positive living

Saturday. James Marshall is ready for his 'tempo run'.
Podium finishers: Jordan, Shaun and Mike.
Mike and Tiger photo-bombing the RD.

But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart...

Since I took it easy on Saturday, I felt energetic enough to accompany my good buddy Graham Snowden and his pal Neil McGregor on a paddle from Deep Cove toward Granite Falls (and back) up Indian Arm. It was not my intention to stay with them for the entire journey, but once again the beauty of the day made time stand still and fatigue was ignored.

Feeling the aftermath of last week's frenzy of activities, I intend to take it easy this week, in preparation for a good run next Sunday in Winthrop (North Cascades, Washington). It seems like everyone is going, and I'm really looking forward to it.
Sunday. Graham and Neil in training for a channel crossing on SUP in June.

If somebody wants one, that is a proof that one exists

On a Tuesday morning run, I asked Daniel to say more about his ‘Marathon Mondays’, here is his response:

Marathon Monday was really something that happened by accident. My friend Sarah (@sarahstepec) and I were out for a long run, and already close to, so we made it a marathon, it just happened to be on a Monday. 
90% of the time it is just myself out for it, or at least for the whole thing. I've had a couple memorable ones with company. Marc Schmitz (@UltraVeggie) has a way of talking me into more elevation and harder trails. It was nice to have Mathias Autsch (I love running with Germans apparently) along for the one time I've done it as a night run. 
It changes every week. The pace and time on feet really depends on where I go. I remember a trail 50k with minimal elevation in a bit under 5.5 hours. But harder routes with a lot of elevation have been well over 7 hours. I'm committed to "The Maffetone Method" which has me keeping my HR really low, particularly on the longer runs. 
Living in North Van, I'm lucky to have such amazing trails starting right out my door. So I'm usually running somewhere between Deep Cove and Grouse. With plenty of diversions to stretch it out. I still love road running, so a couple have been the BMO Vancouver Marathon course, in reverse, for fun.
Why? In the last few years consistency has been something of a struggle. Marathon Monday has become a weekly pillar for me to build around. I ran a huge PB at Diez Vista this year, so from a training perspective, it seems to be working for me. It is about much more than training though - it is a weekly ritual that involves long periods of time, usually alone, in nature. 

Next up for me is the Sinister7 100 miler on July 5th, with Vancouver 100 as the final big training run, happening in early June.

Good luck with your season Daniel!
A few more pics from this week on Instagram

Next post: Sun Mountain race report

Saturday. Trying not to get caught by the fast kids ... - Photo by Robert Shaer 
*Title quotes from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Friday, May 9, 2014

Athlete's Corner: Interview w/ Joel and Shannon

Photo by Robert Shaer

Athlete profile and 5Peaks Golden Ears race preview

Chloe: you both just ran the BMO Vancouver Marathon in support of KidSafe - your first road marathons congrats! Shannon, I know that you and Joel do a lot of fundraising together, how did you first get involved in combining your running with these philanthropy projects?

Shannon: The spark to combining our running with philanthropy was just the simple desire to want to help people. I've always wanted to find different ways to help people and when we decided to run The Coastal Challenge it really hit me that this was a BIG thing we were doing and I began to wonder if we could use this for more. That's when we came up with the thought that we could use this race to not only raise awareness of issues, but help others. We chose to run in honour of Joel's mom and her fight with colon cancer as it was such a hard struggle and we knew this race would be a hard struggle for us too. It was an honour to be able to support the BC Cancer Foundation. We are very excited to have been able to support KidSafe during the BMO Vancouver Marathon and are now thrilled to announce that we are Ambassadors for Team Finn.

BMO Marathon, Team Finn! - Photo by Jay Klassen

"Our objective was to have fun, while supporting KidSafe" - Photo by Jay Klassen

Chloe: Joel, what was your mindset going into the BMO, knowing you have a trail race 6 days later?

Joel: My mindset going into the BMO marathon was to have fun first off!!!! Then to finish strong, but be conscious that I do have another race less than a week away, and that its very early in the season, so not to get injured. I didn't do any formal marathon training for this race, so I needed to listen to my body and not push through pains that could lead to injury. All we did differently was to switch from running trail to road in the 2 1/2 half weeks before the marathon.

Chloe:  You are a running couple and do the majority of your training together, how do you plan out your year, like, what is your criteria for race selection and do you ever do events separately?

Joel: Well last year was our first “season” together and also my first “season” doing trail races. So we didn't really have a plan, we just picked races that fit our schedules. I was in Whistler all summer so we were more concentrated on exploring up there. At the end of last summer is when we decided to up our distances in races, and to do The Coastal Challenge adventure stage race in Costa Rica in Feb of this year. I had heard about this race years ago through a friend and it was on my bucket list but needed the right person to do it with, and I definitely did find that person in Shannon. This year we just picked more races that had longer distances and that fit our schedules. We don't follow the crowds to specific races, we do our own thing. As far as racing separately, all of the shorter races (e.g.: 5peaks) we run as our own. We might finish together but thats just by chance. For the longer distances, we like to be together for encouragement but mostly for safety. We don't need to be heroes, over-pushing ourselves and gamble getting hurt. We wanna be running for a long time. We are just so lucky having found each other with the same passions for playing outside. There are no limitations to what we can do. Every day get up and go!!!!!!

Shannon: We love training together and basically research races and events together to find ones that we would want to do. We do run some races separately though. The races for the National team and Worlds have been something I have done alone.

Joel during The Coastal Challenge, Feb 2014 - Photo by Shannon
Chloe: Shannon, what is your objective for 5Peaks Golden Ears, and do you have a “plan B” if things go sideways during the race?

Shannon: My plan for 5Peaks Golden Ears is to run as fast as I can! Hahaha I'm sure I won't be at 100% strength coming off running the BMO Vancouver Marathon not even a week ago but I'm just out to have fun and run! (Which is secretly my race plan for every race! I just want to do my best and enjoy every bit of running I can!) I will be running the 14km Enduro Race and my plan b... Run slower? Haha maybe I'll ask Joel for a piggy back as my plan b.

Chloe: Joel, youve recently explored the terrain around the race course, what did you like best about it and what should we watch for, any tips for us?

Joel:  The start I think will be very fast, it’s flat and non-technical. I'm glad with the time I've just spent running on the road for the marathon will help me with the first half since its pretty much a dirt road until you reach the first and only big hill. I'm planning on taking easy until the hill since I'm not 100% recovered from the marathon. I'm gonna save my legs for the hill since that is a strong point for me. And I just saw that 500 people are registered for the race, so its gonna be a traffic jam that will add more difficulty for passing etc. After the climb, the downhill section is somewhat technical if you're fast, then to add a million people flying down at the same time final tip: have fun out there.
"We want to continue exploring our beautiful backyard"
Chloe: What are your shared key events this summer?

Joel: We have 3 ultras this summer that I can’t wait for. Those are the ones I’m mainly focusing on. The 5peaks series, for me, is strictly for fun. I do better in longer distances and I enjoy those way more. Mainly, my goal this summer is to continue exploring our beautiful backyard with no pressure from racing and to take amazing photos of course ;)

Shannon: Our shared key events are all the 5Peaks races, Trail Stoke, Squamish50 and whatever else tickles our fancy! We definitely want to run our ultras together for the support and strength we find in each other. Joel is my rock when I'm in a tough place and it's so nice to be able to share our passion of running together.

Chloe: Looking forward to seeing you at Golden Ears and best of luck with all your wonderful projects this summer!


For more on Shannon and Joel:

Twitter: @runshannyrun
Instagram: @runshannyrun (Shanny) @allarms (Joel) and @coupleofrunners (both)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Trip to eternity

Photo by Spring McClurg

Adam Campbell says “mountain running and alpinism have increasingly begun to overlap. At the forefront of both activities is the desire to set daring objectives, cover terrain and distances inconceivable to most, to overcome fears and to push our bodies and minds to their limits.” 1

With the big melt this week and rain in the forecast, plans to cover Horseshoe Bay to Lynn Valley on the weekend were reassessed.  I was apprehensive about Cypress Bowl and First Lake. Anticipating angry slush, precarious snow bridges over lurking creeks, followed by erratic blow-down in the Hollyburn and top Chute areas. Recent reports of such conditions swayed me toward a Plan B for Saturday.

Regardless of spring mountain conditions, “daring objectives” were in the works, and Adam Harris had something in store for us...

Double double

This week was the start of double-double, in preparation for my two key races. A ‘double’ is two workouts per day and ‘double double’ just means this happens on consecutive days. And so on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I did two workouts per day (and loved it). I’ve also just learned about “Marathon Mondays” but let’s save this story for another day, eh eh.

Tuesday. 5:30am, this is where we park (okay for a couple of hours, but don't tell)

Mountain Highway at dawn

I was amazed by how many were keen to run on a gravel road up the mountain at 5:30 in the morning. Peer pressure? … “I have to do this, others are doing it” Curiosity? … “this sounds like a horrible idea, I should try it” … At any rate, call it zeal or bravado, I was grateful for the company.

Sounds fun? Tuesdays, 5:30am sharp. Meet at Mtn Hwy gate. We start together for a 10-12 min warm-up then each run at own pace, various distances (10-20k+), pick any return route (mtn hwy or trails). Follow me on FB for the roll-call every Monday.

Saturday. The gang, soaked and cold on Lynn loop section of trip-to-eternity run.
Sarah Carter, Dan Stein, Adam Harris, myself and Jackie Muir - Photo by Spring McClurg

Distance, elevation and difficulty – trip to eternity

Adam Harris proposed a point-to-point route from Grouse to Deep Cove effectively weaving together the most  joyous string of trails on the North Shore. Our intention was to keep the group small and well-matched in fitness and agility so that we could move relatively quickly.

Saturday. Can't get enough of straight ups and twisty downs?
Sing a song like Dan the "mountain eater"

Dan summed it best: the run was "tonnes of fun”. The vibe was giddy and hilarious, all smiles all the way – even when the weather turned hostile, ironically hailing hard at the exact moment we were running on the only stretch that was not under tree coverage. We were soaked, muddied, frozen instant. Fortunately, the sky cleared and the air warmed long enough for us to remember only the high-points of the day at the end of our run in the Cove.

Saturday. Sarah pulling the front, I said "someone put a harness on that girl",
but Adam said "you can't curb that kind of enthusiasm" 

Saturday. Ya, we're silly, so

Sounds fun? Here (Strava) is what we did: From Cleveland Dam parking lot, weaving up side trails, onto Baden Powell to Cascades, up Bitches Brew and Per Gynt > Down 7th Secret, Crinkum Crankum, Kirkland and Upper/ Lower Griffen to the Baden Powell > Lynn Headwaters Short loop, Lynn Headwaters connector to Gazebo > Down Homestead to Fishermans, up Bottle Top, power lines, and Dales trail > Down Mushroom Trail to the Baden Powell and finally cutoff to Baden Powell off of Seymour highway down to Deep Cove. 28.9km with 1600m elevation. 

Yup. So now I’m gearing up for 5Peaks Golden Ears next week, then a bit of taper for Sun Mountain 50mi the following week-end. After that, I’ll be raring to go explore and alpine run with the gang (doing something? count me in!).

Saturday. Ken at the back (haha sorry buddy)
making a guest appearance for a couple of hours.

Also on Instagram

Next up: Athlete interviews for 5Peaks Golden Ears and my race report

1Canadian Running Magazine, Trail Issue 2014: Volume 7, Issue 3, pages 48-51